The thieves who sneaked into a museum in southern Germany and stole hundreds of ancient gold coins were in and out of the museum in nine minutes without raising the alarm, officials said on Wednesday, providing fresh evidence that the theft was the work of organized criminals.
In 1999, during an archeological dig in the present-day city of Manching, 483 Celtic coins and a lump of unworked gold were unearthed. Police have begun a global search for the thieves and their haul.
After the robbery of a Celtic gold treasure from the Celtic Roman Museum on November 25, 2022 in Manching, Bavaria, emergency troops of the riot police scour the area for probable traces. Lennart Preiss/image partnership via Getty Images
Guido Limmer, the deputy chief of Bavaria’s State Criminal Police Office, described how at 1:17 a.m. on Tuesday, cables were severed at a telecoms hub less than a mile from the Celtic and Roman Museum in Manching, knocking out communications networks throughout the region.
The mayor of Manching, Herbert Nerb, told the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, “They severed all of Manching.”
Limmer stated that the museum’s security systems captured a door being forced open at 1:26 a.m. and then the criminals leaving at 1:35 a.m. During those nine minutes, the thieves must have busted up a display case and stolen the valuables.
Markus Blume, minister of science and culture for Bavaria, stated that evidence pointed to the involvement of experts.
“It is evident that you cannot simply walk into a museum and steal this priceless artifact,” he told BR. As a result of the high level of security, we suspect that we are dealing with organized crime.
However, officials confessed that there was no overnight security at the museum.
Rupert Gebhard, the director of the Bavarian State Archaeological Collection in Munich, stated that an alarm system was regarded enough protection.
Gebhard stated that the treasure was of significant importance to both the Manching community and archaeologists around Europe.
The bowl-shaped coins, which date back to approximately 100 B.C. and were minted from Bohemian river gold, demonstrate that the Celtic settlement at Manching had connections throughout Europe, he explained.
Gebhard estimated that the treasure was worth approximately €1.6 million ($1.65 million).
“The archaeologists believe the coins will remain in their pristine condition and resurface at some time,” he added, adding that they are well-documented and difficult to sell.
“The worst alternative, melting down the gold, would result in a total loss for us,” he added, noting that the gold’s material worth at current market levels would amount to around 250,000 euros.
The magnitude of the treasure, according to Gebhard, showed that it was “the war chest of a tribal chief.” It was discovered in a bag buried beneath building foundations and was the largest discovery of its kind uncovered during routine archaeological investigations in 20th-century Germany.
Limmer, the deputy head of police, stated that Interpol and Europol have already been notified of the theft of the coins, and that a 20-member special investigative squad, nicknamed “Oppidum” after the Latin term for a Celtic town, has been created to search down the perpetrators.
Limmer stated that there were “parallels” between the crime in Manching and the thefts of a huge gold coin in Berlin and $1 billion worth of diamonds in Dresden — possibly the largest jewel theft in history. Both have been attributed to a criminal family located in Berlin.
“We cannot say whether there is a connection,” he continued. “Only this much: we are in contact with coworkers to explore all conceivable aspects.”
German police said in 2020 that they had apprehended three suspects in the Dresden robbery.